What is the Meaning of Organizing by STYLE?

Think outside the file cabinet, binder and pocket folder to find new and creative ways to organize your things in a way that works. First in a series!

By Lisa Hess

Happy New Year! Is getting organized on your list of new year’s resolutions? Maybe this is the year to try organizing by STYLE.


Organizing by STYLE means using what we do naturally to our advantage. I have an I need to see it personal style and a drop and run organizational style. By themselves, both of these can be liabilities but, when I press them into service, they can become the foundation of an organizational system that works because it’s built on what I do automatically.

Organizing by STYLE means not apologizing when one size fits all solutions don’t fit. It means thinking outside the file cabinet, the binder and the pocket folder to find new, fun, creative ways to keep our stuff together in a way that works.

Organizing by STYLE is not a quick fix, a panacea or a once-and-done solution. And if anyone tells you that such a thing exists for getting organized and staying organized, you should be very skeptical indeed.

Organizing by STYLE means:

Doing it your way. Do you love stuff? Do you cram and jam? Maybe this is the year you stop apologizing and press these habits into service as viable strategies. So often, organizational plans are written by what I call Type A organizers — folks who are naturally organized and who can’t imagine things like binders and file cabinets being the enemy (they’re #2 and #1 on my list, respectively). With the best of intentions, these talented people proffer solutions. We embrace their ideas hopefully, only to find that what worked so flawlessly for them was less flawless for us. Then, we end up feeling as though we’re flawed when, in fact, the tools and/or strategies were just not the right fit. Choosing the tools that make sense to you and using them instead of the things that don’t (no matter how tried and true they may be for someone else) allows you to take charge of your organizational systems and frees you to reject the status quo in favor of something that’s a better fit for you.

Doing it a little at a time. What’s bugging you most? What needs to be organized anyway? These are the entry points. Couple what you already know (your personal and organizational styles, with what’s already working in other areas of your home, classroom or life) and apply that knowledge to these trouble spots. Consider the function of the space (storage? workspace? family drop spot?), how dynamic it needs to be (do things go there once and stay there or are people and things constantly coming and going?) and who needs to use it and plan accordingly. The more dynamic the spot, the simpler the plan should be.

Giving it the time it needs. Getting organized is a process and when you organize by STYLE, you’ll discover as you go, replacing tools that don’t work with tools that do. Sometimes, you’ll find the perfect solution immediately. Other times, you’ll play with a strategy or two before you find a keeper. But if you’re choosing tools and strategies that fit your styles, you’re less likely to be frustrated because each item or strategy you choose will have attributes that work for you.

Being patient with yourself. Organizing is hard. If it were easy, it wouldn’t make the new year’s resolution list. Organizing by STYLE arose out of a sense of frustration I was experiencing, one I saw over and over again as I taught this to first kids, then adults. We all thought we were the problem. Everyone around us seemed to do this organizing thing so easily, so naturally. What was wrong with us?

Nothing. We celebrate uniqueness in our students yet, when it comes to organization (ours or theirs) we’re shocked when conformity to a one-size-fits-all plan doesn’t work. We need to release ourselves from the belief that we are somehow the problem and stop labeling ourselves as messy. Whether we leave things out so we remember them (I need to see it), cram as much as possible into one spot (cram and jam), set things down to put away later (drop and run), put things in a safe place that eludes us later (I know I put it somewhere), run out of time for organizing (I love to be busy) or collect all sorts of treasures because we just know they’ll be useful at some point (I love stuff), we can use these habits to take the first steps toward choosing tools and creating systems that work.

Ready to get started? Ditch the belief that you’re the problem, keep your eyes open for some cool organizers and join me over the next few months as we approach the styles, two at a time.

Lisa Lawmaster Hess is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania and a former elementary school counselor.

2 thoughts on “What is the Meaning of Organizing by STYLE?

  1. Thanks, Julia! Working on it now! I also get to do a weekly STYLE Savvy post at catholic mom.com. You can find bite-sized ideas there in the meantime!

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